Rejected By Harvard? Now What?

Rejected By Harvard? Now What?

So Harvard University is the top school on your list? That must mean you’re pretty smart, so we’re guessing you already know just how hard it is to get into the storied Ivy League institution. In fact, it’s harder than ever to get into Harvard.

Thanks to factors like test-optional admissions, application inflation, and a rising reliance on early admissions, the number of applications to Harvard University has skyrocketed. As a result, the acceptance rate for Harvard dipped below 3.2% in 2022. That amounts to just 1,954 applicants admitted from among 61,220 Harvard hopefuls. This is a new all time low, and it means that your stellar grades, test scores, and extracurriculars may still not be enough to get you in.

As author and admissions expert Jeffrey Selingo explains, your odds of getting into a school like Harvard may be as much about luck as qualifications.

We won’t dissuade you from pursuing this lofty goal. If you are an elite student, you should always swing for the fences. With that in mind, we’re happy to illuminate The Secrets to Getting Into Harvard.

But you should also know that Harvard isn’t the only way to receive an amazing education, a reputable degree, and the opportunity to connect with influential people. If it turns out that Harvard just isn’t in the cards for you, we’ve got comforting news. You have tons of options. Read on for a look at some of the best alternatives to Harvard...

Weigh Your Options

If Harvard was your first choice, we’re guessing you also applied to a handful of other Ivy League schools. And we’re also assuming you’ve had plenty of time to explore the Ivy League Admissions landscape.

But have you considered setting your sights on a school where you can really stand out from your classmates? While going to an elite college can open a lot of doors, you may actually be in a position to excel even further by dropping down the college rankings just a bit.

Schools on the second tier of the 50 Best Colleges and Universities offer much better admissions odds, and may also give you a chance to distinguish yourself as an elite academic performer. While you may risk blending into the crowd at Harvard, you could become a top student at Vassar College, Emory University, or Bowdoin College.

You can apply the same strategy by looking into our list of the 50 Best Research Universities for Undergrads, which includes excellent and accessible schools like American University, University of Pittsburgh, and Boston University.

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Look at Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities

If Harvard isn’t an option for you, this may also be a good time to consider your options among liberal arts colleges and universities. In an era where employers place a premium on professional flexibility, you may be well-served by choosing an institution with a wide set of offerings, including excellent career placement services.

You don’t have to go to an elite research university to get an enriching education. In fact, if you’re seeking a well-rounded experience—one that gives you the freedom to explore a wide range of subjects and disciplines—a liberal arts school may actually be a better fit for you.

Don’t overlook the importance of personal compatibility when choosing a college or university. For a look at your options, check out our list of The 50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities, which spotlights excellent schools with reasonable admission rates, like Swarthmore College, Wesleyan University, and Reed College.

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Consider Alternative Ranking Metrics

While Harvard may typically rank at, or around, #1 on most notable ranking lists, one area where it actually performs quite poorly is in the area of academic stewardship. But what is academic stewardship? This is a novel and empirical metric that measures each college’s effectiveness at reinvesting revenue into student needs and educational priorities as well as how well each institution avoids waste.

By that measure, the Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship offers a completely unique look at the value of the education, experience, and degree you’ll get from each school on our list. Harvard doesn’t even make the list.

This is a particularly valuable metric because it alters the landscape for smaller institutions. The list of schools that deserve spotlighting for their academic stewardship is topped by Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and small, private liberal arts colleges. The implication is that you don’t necessarily need to attend an institution like Harvard in order to receive an excellent education. Arguably, the academic stewardship metric demonstrates that you’ll get a lot more educational value for your investment at a smaller institution.

If you’re seeking out colleges that are both excellent and dedicated to reinvesting in their student body, check out schools like Fisk University, Hampshire College, and Tougaloo College.

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Shop for Excellence and Affordability

We probably don’t have to remind you that Harvard costs an absolute fortune. If money is a factor for you, getting rejected by Harvard could save you more than a few dollars. When you graduate and begin repaying student loans, you’ll notice the difference.

There are actually countless amazing schools with excellent educational standards, reputable degrees, and influential professors that offer a relatively affordable education. You should consider maximizing your ROI by looking for a school that is at once excellent and affordable. For instance, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan and University of California, Los Angeles top our list of The Most Affordable Colleges and Universities in the U.S..

Of course, you’ll get even deeper discounts when you qualify for in-state tuition rates. To find out more, check out our look at The Most Affordable Colleges and Universities by State.


Not willing to take no for an answer? Naturally, there are a few other ways to get a leg up on your Ivy League journey, not the least of which is to enlist the help of a college admissions consultant. Indeed, the practice is increasingly common among those with Ivy League ambitions. Check out our directory of College Admissions Consultants & Counselors by State.

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